Dear Rainbow

dear-rainbow-1

Dear Rainbow baby,

You have been my comfort after the storm. You continue to be. I think the term “Rainbow baby” is a little bit of a misnomer, because the rainbow after the flood in Genesis was a promise, and a covenant. You have not been promised to me. But in the other sense, where the rainbow appeared in the sky for the first time and Noah and his family saw it and worshiped God–in that sense, that sense of hope, you are my rainbow.

Nine weeks remain until your due date and I love you. I cannot wait to meet you. I realized this last weekend that the expectation of meeting you has finally tipped the scale in its favor, over and against my fear. But until that moment when the cord is cut and you are laid on my chest, breathing and blinking and alive, there will always be a hesitation in me to unleash the fury of my love.

I cope, for now. I have always been a control freak, wrestling away the semblances of control God grants me, holding them tightly against me, pretending they are true and manifest control over my own life. So my way of coping is to frantically prepare myself for the act of childbirth, writing out my plans, organizing my registry, tidying up. But God snatches even that back from me–your daddy gets sick for three weekends he was going to use to work on the nursery, he’s sick during one of our baby classes, my registry discount is unavailable to me yet, and it happened to fall that none of my baby showers occur prior to 32 weeks’ gestation. Which means that despite my obsessive desire to physically prepare for you, I’m still miles from where I need to be.

And at one point, this caused me so much fear and overwhelm that I ended up having twelve Braxton-Hicks contractions in less than two hours (which I later was reprimanded by the nurse for not calling the on-call doctor about), and a breakdown of all my attempts to prepare and was forced to just lie there, and rest, and focus on you and your little kicks and punches.

And truthfully, that’s what I don’t want to do, because I’d rather focus on something that makes me feel in control, and makes me feel prepared. Instead, to focus on you is to feel intensely how much I love you and how much I do not have a bit of control over how often you move, how fast you are growing, how developed your little brain and body. But more than once I have dissolved into a heap of desperate love and admitted to myself that time loving you and trusting our God is what I need to do the most.

So much unknown comes after you are born. How will I feel meeting you, when I never got to meet my first baby? Will I have post-partum depression again, and if I do, will I realize it and seek help? How much will it change my marriage? How much will I miss my job? It all seems negative and fearful because the true positive, the hope and joy and love in meeting you, is the one thing I cannot control and cannot allow myself to dwell on.

I always come back to Brennan Manning though. He is the patron saint of this pregnancy. He writes, “But what about doubts and worries? Do they, too, signal a rejection of God’s Kingdom? Not necessarily. There can be no faith without doubt, no hope without anxiety, and no trust without worry. These shadow us from dawn to dusk; indeed, they appear even in our dreams. As long as we withhold internal consent to these varied faces of fear, they are no cause for alarm, because they are not voluntary. When they threaten to consume us, we can overpower them with a simple and deliberate act of trust: ‘Jesus, by your grace I grow still for a moment and I hear you say, ‘”Courage! It’s me! Don’t be afraid.'” I place my trust in your presence and your love. Thank you.'”

And for the first time in my life I consistently give myself grace for my fears and doubts. All of them are founded on a legitimate cause. I lost one beloved child; I fear losing another. But to have hope at all of meeting you, to allow myself to feel love for you, I must withhold consent from those fears and allow that peace of Christ to remind me that He is good, and he knows how to give good gifts to his children. However contradictory it appears to my actual experience, in a worldly sense, it remains true that what He does is good and what He will do, whatever He will do, will also be good.

I suppose the same is true of his rainbows. We are not promised no storms at all. But we are promised his grace and his restoration after those storms. I hope you are mine.

Dear Rowan: On Your Due Date

copy-of-copy-of-dear-rowanDear Rowan,

I have been dreading this day for months.

No words can describe the sense of emptiness and the feeling of being cheated, with empty arms on the day I should have met you and held you. It’s that day–and nothing happened.

2016 is coming to an end and there is no baby in my arms. It’s unfathomable, unfair, and devastating. Death is not natural. It’s not supposed to feel right. I’m not supposed to feel peace. It is not well with my soul and quite frankly, I don’t think God blames me. Death is the enemy, and he doesn’t deny that. Jesus wept at death and the grief it caused his friends, Mary and Martha. Nobody can tell me he doesn’t weep over the grief yours caused me too; over the unnaturalness of not holding my baby on the day I was supposed to.

Rowan, I will not get to meet you today. But I will one day. I will not get to see your smile, your first words, your first report card, your first drawing, your first laugh, your first car, your first friends, your first child. I will never see those things on earth that I, as your mother, should have. Death won. I am defeated by it and bear its weight. It settles over the house in the form of your empty nursery and the lack of your cries. It settles over my body in the emptiness of my arms and my chest. It settles over my marriage in the lonely day we spend together, shouldering the weight of what would have been ours. It settles over my soul in the darkness of feeling defeated and devastated by its clutches.

But it has not escaped my notice that your due date comes after Christmas. I have been completely unable to focus on Christmas in any way other than being physically present to move through the motions of it. I cannot focus on my mind and heart on the point of it, or my spirit on the message of it. Yet I know it so well as the backbone of my faith that it sinks into my subconscious anyway. How dare this sacred holiday be tainted by death? And yet the Christmas story itself was tainted by death–I weep with the mothers of Bethlehem whose babies were murdered by a cowardly king. And yet literarily, what a foil. The earthly king feared the gospel message and his response was violence and death. In the meantime, life prevailed in a manger despite him, bringing with it the power to defeat death once and for all. The contrast is intentional. It does not escape my notice.

And yet how I groan as the world does with the weight of death still lingering as the last enemy has yet to be defeated. The earth is full of it just as it is full of sin and evil, waiting until the final judgment. You, my sweet child, escaped all of that and you will never feel what I am feeling now.

Nor has it escaped my notice that your sister reached her viability milestone yesterday. She is now at the point where she would most likely survive outside the womb, and doctors would fight to save her. One day before your due date. Nor has it escaped my notice that in the days leading up to your due date, her kicks have become so strong they hurt.

All of this comforts my mind and soothes my heart. But my arms and my soul remain at a loss. I don’t know what words to use to describe this state of lack. I am missing a child. I just am. There’s nothing good or redemptive in that. And God stands with me and feels it too.

It has changed everything. I have had my innocence destroyed. There have been small moments of excitement in my journey with your sister that have bolstered me thus far, but overall I have had no glow of expectation, no moments of quiet joy or bonding with her. I find it impossible to allow myself to expect to meet her. As much as I speak of her arrival, I don’t believe it. I will begin the motions of preparing for her as the year turns, but emotionally I have not bonded with her to the extent that I would have wanted–because I am afraid of feeling for her the intensity of the love I have for you. It’s all in there, bottled up and ready for later, but impossible to touch upon now. I hate it, for her sake. She deserves all my love and my joy. But it is normal to struggle with this, and I give myself grace, knowing that one day it will be easier. One day, God willing, I will be allowed to feel all of that love and joy.

So far, Rowan, every day of my pregnancy with her has been a day that should have belonged to you. But from this day forward, we go on without you, and I think it will bring me some closure, some chance to make this pregnancy hers alone.

This year has been the worst of my life in a dozen small and large ways. I cannot wait for it to end. I close this horrible year with your due date and will leave both behind me, hoping that the next year will be very different indeed. Many have suffered his year. I will likely suffer a great deal more in my life. That is the nature of our existence. But symbolically, I am glad to have reached this day. It stings with the pain I expected it would. Yet it is altered not only by time but also by the new child within me and the hope she brings.

My dear Rowan, my beloved first child, I will never, ever forget you. You are my first, my love, my heart, my soul. You made me a mother and I hope it makes me a better mother to your sister. I hope the loss of you makes me more fully aware of the hurts of the world under the weight of sin and death, that I might be a better wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, coworker, and woman of influence. But for now, in the smallness of a normal Tuesday, on which most of the world moves forward (though five or six remember you by name, and your due date, and honor you by mentioning you to me), I am alone and empty, desperately missing what should have been mine today. I’m overwhelmed with the normalcy of the day, longing for there to be some way for the world to acknowledge you, other than in the memory of a select few who surround us with prayer today. But there is no reception of you in the world, because you are not and will never be in it. As your mother, it is unfathomable to me. But it is my truth.

The sun is shining today. It would have been a beautiful day to meet you.

But dear Rowan–I will meet you in heaven instead of today. I love you. I wish I could tell you that from my lips to your little ears. But for now, feel all my love in the wordless longing I have for you today.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen Part NineteenPart Twenty, Part Twenty-One.

Dear Rowan: Part Twenty-One

copy-of-dear-rowanIt is one thing to have my trust in God restored slowly over time through moments spent with him, through Brennan Manning, through the Word, and through prayer– and quite another to have my trust in life and people restored.

Though it is neither your fault nor your sister’s fault the pain I have gone through because of the love of you, I still feel at fault for having been fool enough to love.

I have been burned badly by love. I have before now, and especially this year. I feel ashamed and foolish to have loved you so deeply, and yet how could I have done otherwise? How can anyone go through life without love?

I have deeply loved friends who clearly did not love me the same. I am a fool.

I have deeply loved family who have hurt me. I am a fool.

I have deeply loved places I have had to leave behind. I am a fool.

I tend not to guard my heart as well as perhaps I should. I am a fool.

And yet where is the balance? I cannot do anything other, lest I go through life without love and without friendship, without the reciprocation that occasionally comes as a result of giving your heart unabashedly to others.

And who can fault me for my love of you? How would they dare? And yet who can fault me now for my cautious love of your sister, whom I long to love with an unabashed fury even as she kicks my insides mercilessly to remind me “I am here! I am alive! I am yours.” I want to love her with all the furious pent-up love I have suppressed since the day I lost you.

But if this horrible year has taught me anything, it’s that love hurts like hell. Hell has surrounded me and beat down my doors. It has made me a fool.

Even now I still want to love. I ache with the love of those who have broken my heart. This includes you, Rowan, though it’s not your fault.

Philosophically, theologically, love does not end. Love is mightier than hell, than brokenness, than foolishness, than hurt. Love extends beyond death. Love is greater than faith and hope. Love created the world, love created you, love created your sister, love has both of you wrapped in its arms when my own love cannot hold you. And I am beloved, and I am invited to love unconditionally too.

I long to. Christmas is coming, and my advent devotion reminds me over and over that love is the reason Christ came as a baby. For God so loved the world, that he gave his son. It’s never been more pertinent or more painful to me. That tiny infant entered the world in a dirty cave to begin the work to wipe these tears from my eyes and the eyes of other mothers who have lost their babies. To begin the work of restoring the world to what it once was. To make the way for me to see you again.

Your due date is also coming. It’s so soon. I think, as I am surrounded by Christmas decorations, how I was supposed to be 38 weeks pregnant with you now. And it hurts, and it makes a mockery of the bright happy Christmas songs and the materialism of Christmas shopping, and changes forever how I will see this holiday.

But to feel keenly the loss of you again, as your due date approaches to mock me, is easier around Christmas, I think. Because of that hope that’s tied up with Christmas. That promise that God, who gave up his son to the world because of love, will reunite me with mine one day. That, Lord willing, your sister will tear down ornaments from this tree with her 8-month-old hands next year. That love made a huge fool of itself, abasing itself to human form, to free me to love and be made a fool of too.

I am a fool. I am a fool if I love, and a fool if I don’t. It hurts, it’s exhausting, it’s lonely. It’s me, alone in the darkness, without you, but with your sister kicking me and giving me hope that I will one day hold her and love her and make my foolishness worth it in the end. But for now it all just hurts, here in the middle of it, and I feel like a fool.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen Part Nineteen, Part Twenty

Dear Rowan: Part Twenty

dear-rowanDear Rowan,

I am tired. I am tired to the marrow, and I ache with it.

I grew up in a loving household yet suffered nevertheless. There was fear, there were health problems, money problems, ill treatment from those who thought I was too different. But I had a naturally optimistic and occasionally oblivious disposition, so that much of it slid off my back like water off of a duck.

The estrangement and imprisonment of a brother, the loss of a beloved grandmother, the cancer battle of another grandmother, prepared me in small ways for the loss of you. But regardless, losing you was the darkest and deepest grief I have ever felt.

Truthfully, I understand now that this is what life is made of. If anyone makes it to the end of his life without feeling what I have felt, he is either supremely lucky or has drowned his feelings in other things for decades.

But it doesn’t make the burden lighter. I am weary. Five months now I have lived with the weight and darkness of losing you on my shoulders. I have felt very much alone. Most of those who understand or who love me deeply (or both) are hundreds of miles from me. I have felt alone in carrying the weight of my grief, alone in my depression, alone in my fear in this new pregnancy, alone in handling the day to day decisions of life which sometimes overwhelm me on their own because after all I’ve borne, having to schedule a dentist appointment or drop off clothes at the consignment store are just too much.

I cannot describe the depth of my loneliness and grief. It still lingers. It still stings. The way the world moves on and seems surprised to discover I haven’t is torture. There are just no words. I’ve said all I can on it. I suppose I’m done.

Yet for this child within me now, I have let go of so much. Most of the time, I am happy. That optimism of my childhood carries me still, and I, for the sake of this child, surround myself with friends who love me, activities I enjoy, and books and TV shows that entertain me. Because this child deserves that much. And I am stronger, tougher, and thus far undefeated. But the weariness settles in on me sometimes at night, and it all comes crashing down. I hope the baby is asleep, and can’t feel what I’m feeling. The fear that I’ll never meet him or her. The daily expectation of loss. The guilt for feeling that way. The sense of loneliness that comes from knowing that despite the kind and supportive words people have said to me, I still have to bear my own sorrows alone, just as anyone does who knows the unique pain of loss. Some, as I have said, understand better than others. Some understand not at all. But regardless of where they are on that spectrum, people are incapable of bearing my grief like I must do.

And so I am tired. Physically, from a rough first trimester that hasn’t fully let go its hold on me. Mentally, from the strain of living daily without you. Emotionally, from the loneliness and the effort it takes to remain happy.

But it is also in those moments in the darkness that I am reminded how very much I am not alone. There is only one who knows my grief to the extend that I do. There is only one who is able to soothe it in a manner that provides true healing. He has never left me alone. And to that I cling with gratitude.

I am grateful. I think that’s the optimism that rests at the foundation of my daily life. That and faith. I think both of those things have borne me through my childhood and young adulthood. Even til now. My trust in God was shaken by the loss of you, yes. But not my faith. And not my gratitude.

I am grateful that I loved you. That I saw you alive and beating in my womb, fiercely insisting upon your own existence in this world, even for a short time. You were my joy.

I am grateful that the loss of you showed me a paradigm shift: I understand people better now. I understand suffering now. My empathy has skyrocketed, and now news of hurricanes and disease and death makes me weep like it never did before. I weep with other mothers who have empty arms. I weep for suffering, and you taught me that.

I am grateful for a new perspective on motherhood. I no longer think that it is simple to attain, or to be taken for granted. Sometimes it can result in the worst pain imaginable. And it is worth it all the same. Sometimes it is borne in fear mingled with hope. But it is always worth it.

I am grateful for this life inside me now; your sibling. Regardless of how long I get to keep it. Months, years, decades.Regardless of what joy or sorrow it brings me. I am deeply in love and grateful for that love.

I am grateful for your daddy. How he has suffered with me and has faced sorrow with me, how he has maintained optimism and hope, how he has not treated my fears as unfounded or foolish, but has been my support. How he has taken care of me for the last seven months’ worth of first trimesters and pain and loss, and fear and hope.

I am grateful for those God has raised up and those he has torn from me. He has brought people alongside me to love me. He brought me to the place of work where I spend my week, among people who listen and support and pray.

He has walked with me. He has reminded me in a dozen large ways and a hundred small ones that I am his child. That he delights in me, that he holds me, that he is working in me, that he loves me. That he loves you and created you for a purpose. That he loves your sibling in me now and has big plans for him or her too.

He makes it clear that life is a complete package of good and bad. That we cannot have gratitude only in the good, but also in the bad. So he has reminded me to be grateful, impossible as it seems, for my grief and sorrow. For the hits I took as a child, the loss of family, the abandonments and betrayals of others, the loss of dreams and plans, and the uncertain and frightening future.

Gratitude must permeate the life of the true Christian. The Christian who doesn’t live in the foolish assumption that following Jesus in first-world America means health and prosperity and joy. And for my naturally grateful disposition I have gratitude. But it is he who sustains it in me, even when I am tired to the marrow.

As Henri Nouwen said, “As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

It is in this that my trust is being restored. My faith, my gratitude, have held me aloft, but my trust is mending slowly as I understand better God’s ways–as I see him working in me through my exhaustion and loneliness and grief and fear and hope and gratitude and peace. As time slowly shows me how what he has taken from me is changing me in ways that are not good from a human perspective, but Good from a heavenly one.

I will finish with the words of Brennan Manning:

“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen Part Nineteen.

Dear Rowan: Part Nineteen

DearRowan19Dear Rowan,

A few things have happened since the last time I wrote.

First, my body figured out what was going on and resumed a normal rhythm (to use the nicest euphemism I could think of) and I think that gave a reboot to my hormones. My PPD declined steadily from there.

Second, I continued to read A Grief Observed. I think before I was reading it too early. I wasn’t ready. And now, I’m finding so much comfort in Lewis’ wrestlings with his grief and with God. Every other line in that book resonates deeply with how I feel about losing you. His despair and hope, his anger and depression. Even his loneliness and fear. Friend, if you are reading this and you have lost a baby, please read this book. It will help you, not necessarily to feel happy or better, but to feel less alone. If one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century can feel lost and betrayed and doubting, then it’s OK for you, too.

Third, I went on vacation. I mentioned this in my last letter but here’s a little more. Technically I had a week at home and a week in Georgia with your daddy’s family. The aunts and grandparents and great grandma who were looking forward to meeting you. The week I had at home was good because I was able to have more time to lay on the floor and cry and then get up and clean the house and pack and run errands, instead of working, then crying when I got home, and then not having the energy for anything else. The vacation itself was a powerful separation from everything that reminded me of you and of my loss. A physical one, particularly. Sort of like a chance to step out of myself and fast forward to a time where I felt better. I still cried most nights as I fell asleep. I felt how I had been excited before to wear a swimsuit for my little maternity bump, and how I had looked forward to being surrounded by family excited for me and for your impending arrival. I felt it when I saw pregnant women on the beach and babies in town. But overall, I felt better.

Partly it was just the amount of time I got to spend with your daddy. The rest of the family let us go off and do whatever we wanted. There was no pressure to do anything with the family if we didn’t want to, which I appreciated so much. Your daddy and I spent a lot of time talking, snuggling in that glorious king bed, relaxing, watching tv, swimming, and visiting the beach. I felt that our marriage was stronger than it has ever been. We celebrated our anniversary with a long day together in Charlotte. I met my cousin Shawn and his family and he and his wife Tabitha so sweetly prayed for your daddy and I for healing and for a blessing on our future family. That meant so much to me.

Coming home was hard. I cried every morning that first week, feeling overwhelmed and surrounded by everything that reminded me you were gone. I felt lost, hopeless, separated from my friends, still not pregnant, still despairing. But I made my way through the week with a sense of peace I gained from vacation. More on that later.

The fourth thing that happened was that the counselor I had been looking to meet with finally had an opening. I thought about cancelling, since my PPD was gone, but I thought perhaps just talking to someone who was paid to listen to me was better than dumping it on my friends. It was helpful in many senses. I felt that she didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t heard from friends and family and my own understanding of God, but it was different having a professional tell me it’s alright to grieve, alright to be angry, encourage me to scream and yell things at God, to express my anger knowing he can handle it, but she also told me how to be able to tell when I was holding on too long where it got to be unhealthy. I felt a bit better just having someone recognize my perfectionism and tell me to stop being hard on myself and give myself grace and make myself realize that I can’t control how the grieving process goes because there are no rules. Again, if you’re reading this and are struggling with grief or even PPD, I recommend counseling if you can help it.

The final thing that happened was this: on our last night in Georgia, your daddy and I went for a walk on the beach at sunset. We talked about life and idle things; about our favorite part of vacation. The sunset was beautiful, the temperature was ideal, and a storm was visible rolling over the ocean. Your daddy went inside but I wanted to watch the sunset and the storm. I sat on the beach and I inevitably started thinking about how much I missed you. I started talking to God again. Less anger, less begging. More just feeling defeated and lost. I know he understands. I felt him grieving with me as I cried. It helped to know he did. I fell into my usual questions: “Why did you take my baby? What did I do wrong? What lesson do I need to learn before you give me another baby? What bargain can I make with you to let me keep my next baby?”

He asked me, “What did you have to do to earn my love? My grace?”

I said, “nothing. Just trust you.”

He said, “what then did you do to lose Rowan? What do you need to do to keep your next baby?”

I said, “nothing.”

And the ocean seemed to echo it over and over, to my perfectionist, hard-on-myself heart, “nothing, nothing, nothing.”

What does this mean, then? That you were stolen from me purely by the evil of this world and not by anything I did wrong or any cruelty on God’s part? Yes. I have always known this but my human heart has never wanted to admit it. Anger at myself and anger at God is the easiest thing to handle.

I have no idea how to go forward. I’m still as lost as I ever was, but my faith has remained intact. I knew it would. Even on the day I lost you, I knew I could never turn from my God, no matter how angry I was or how much I doubted him. Another book I’m reading says, “cling to God’s character no matter what you experience in this transient life.” This is what I have done. I have no idea what will happen if I lose another baby. I think it will wreck me beyond what I felt losing you, Rowan. I don’t know how I will live, how I will function. But I’m trying to hope my rainbow baby will come and my God will prove himself faithful to me as he has done for my entire life.

I miss you so much, Rowan, and I love you so much. But for now, I think my letters are done. I am at a place where my depression has eased and my grief is less. I cry about every other day now instead of every day, or all day. I have felt truly happy and truly close to your daddy. But while I will always miss you and think of you and nothing will take that away from me, I need to stop for now. I love you. You are my precious first child.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen.

Dear Rowan: Part Eighteen

DearRowan18Dear Rowan,

I tried, and I think I did well, to be careful not to place too much expectation on my vacation to fix anything. I knew it would be good for your daddy and I, for our stress levels and for our marriage, but I knew that I would be coming right back to the same things I’ve been enduring for weeks.

And it’s true. While I had moments on vacation where I deeply felt my loss and wished I was there with my whole family–you included, Rowan–I still had moments of peace and healing. But then I returned home after eight days to the house that holds all my horrible memories of losing you, and it all came back. Nothing changed. I’m still grieving, still not pregnant, as far as I know. The world marches on around me, moving on with life, and I’m still feeling everything just as deeply as before.

But it simply emphasizes to me the inability of anything on this planet to help me. Not people, not changes of place, not distraction, and possibly not even a new pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong–I have had wonderful people speak incredible encouragement into my life in a way that I never expected, and which has changed me forever. As I have said before, this has allowed me to discover how loved I am; far more than I ever thought. I continue to be encouraged  by cards arriving in the mail even in recent weeks, by hugs, by prayers, and by people checking on me. But in the end, even people are not enough. They grow weary of treating me differently. They vanish altogether because they don’t want to share my darkness (understandably, I suppose), or they don’t want to talk to me about it as if miscarriage is contagious or something. C.S. Lewis spoke of the same thing in A Grief Observed: married couples didn’t like to talk to him after Joy died, because it reminded them that the same thing may happen to one of them.

(If you’re reading this and you haven’t lost a baby, yes, it may well happen to you. The odds are certainly in favor of it. But don’t let it frighten you. I wish I had known how likely it was so I could have been more prepared. And if you have lost, don’t forget how very much you are not alone.)

People are incapable of curing grief. They are wonderful for providing support; support without which I would not have made it through nearly as well as I did. But they will always be a temporary relief. Humans are selfish, and return to their own lives and their own happiness. I would do the same in their shoes. It’s just human nature. As one friend put it, when I felt I should be doing better than I was, and perhaps even comparing myself to how other, stronger women might be feeling in my shoes, “You’re being too hard on yourself. Remember that you have the right to grieve however you want. Screw what people expect you to do [who] have never lost a child, and you have.” And darned if that isn’t some of the best advice I’ve gotten.

I made the mistake, since I didn’t wish I talk to God, of looking to people to help me more than perhaps I should have. I turned to online message boards for miscarriage mamas, and while they provided me with some practical information on life post-miscarriage, both the physical and emotional, they had nothing else to offer my pain. I turned to people for advice and encouragement. And while many did not let me down, and one might argue for the importance of opening up to people, I was still dodging the truth: that nothing in this world helps for more than an hour or two. I tried not to expect people to check in on me every day or let me know I wasn’t alone all the time. I gave a lot of grace that I would have wanted if I was in their shoes. But I still felt alone. And still do. Some friends have had a greater capacity for compassion than others, and I cannot begin to express how much I appreciate them, but they are also human.

The truth is, though, that whether someone has suffered similarly or not, or suffered far worse than I, even, no one can truly understand the heart-wrenching, hair-tearing anguish of loss in the moments one feels it. Those who have also suffered still feel their own pain, but time has healed the wound a little. Even I, one day, will not properly understand the pain of someone else in their moment of present anguish. I would argue that even now, though I still feel my grief deeply, still mourn every day, would not quite feel as deeply the pain of someone else were they to lose a child today. People are not enough. We are all incapable of being enough.

And so I was prepared, on vacation, to come back home afterward to my depression and grief. Places and separation and distraction are not enough. Time, perhaps, is enough, but it moves too slowly and cannot be a present comfort.
The only thing that can ease the pain and grant hope and peace is God. I know this, and I have always known this. But how does one turn, for comfort, to the one who caused or allowed the affliction? How does one pray for relief to the one who didn’t answer the prayer that would have kept the grief away to begin with? How does one find the same comfort and peace one had in childhood, when one’s childhood God looks very different now than he used to? To loosely paraphrase Lewis, it’s not so much that I feel that God has abandoned me, it’s that I now have to question his love of me, and the view I have had of him all these years.

In A Grief Observed, Lewis says, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted in it?”

I have been a Christian for 23 years, and a whole-hearted follower of Him for 18 years. I have read the Bible 13 and a half times through, and attended church regularly for all of those years. I studied his nature and character in undergrad and graduate school from seasoned Bible and theology scholars. Has my perception of God been wrong all this time? Has he been merely a fabrication of my first-world, comfortable mind? People responded to my grief just as I would have thought they’d do. Time, distance, distraction and change do those little temporary favors to me as I would expect. But I did not respond to God in my grief as I would have thought, nor he to me.

Lewis, as I have written before, felt the same of God. That God was gone, had abandoned him, and, as he felt at least at one point, may never have been there. This is how I have felt for 8 weeks (I should have been 19 weeks pregnant now; should have known your gender, Rowan). But my revelations of God from A Grief Observed and from my vacation will have to wait for another letter, as this one is getting a little long. But suffice it to say that I have begun to speak with Him again, to wrestle with my ideas of him, and to feel Him as He seeks to repair me, little by little, however much anger I still hold against Him.

Dear Rowan: Part Seventeen

DearRowan17Dear Rowan,

I have lived the last eight years of my life believing emotions are wrong. My parents didn’t intend me to ever believe this. But my mother grew up in a family where emotions are kept to yourself and inadvertently continued the legacy. I had my father to balance me out. His mother was all exuberance, delight, joy. Let’s just say I learned practicality and reason from my mother’s mother and passion and enthusiasm from my father’s mother.

I grew up in a church that valued emotion. Not above doctrine but perhaps nearly equal to it. How right this was I am still working out, but whatever the circumstances, I grew up with a strong faith and an excellent relationship with the Lord that was the foundation for everything I am.

In college, two things happened. First, I was burned by some who had an emotional faith which turned out not to be doctrinal and in fact led them to have a very weak faith indeed. Second, I studied theology as my second major. Regardless of the  background of any of my professors, I had found what I had longed to study and clung to it as only a perfectionist who loves rules and reason could.

Logic and emotion warred with one another in my two majors. This was particularly so in my senior year as I studied my senior seminar in theology and my senior seminar in literary criticism. Theology won over my affection, and those classmates and professors whom I respected led me to an appreciation of doctrine above all.

Since then, as I have matured, I have seen the importance of both and the danger of preferring one over the other. But my perfectionism has lent me to appreciating reason and logic perhaps more than I should. What can be better than rules and logical ways to understand the universe and faith? Old habits of feeling defeated in arguments for years against three brothers came out in arguments with my new husband, himself a southern baptist who had never so much as raised his hands in church. How could I expect any arguments from emotion to trump arguments from reason? They cannot and should not, right?

As a woman it has been my torment to feel logic overpowered by hormones on a regular basis. Any woman can be rational and force herself to be so, but at times it is far harder than others and I have grown to hate it.

So when I found out I was pregnant at last, I was delighted but held it in. I kept myself distant even from you, Rowan, until my ultrasound, where I saw your tiny heart beating and was told the chance of losing you t that point was very small. I fell in love and let myself do so to the full extent of an expectant mother, unleashing my imagination to wonder if you were a boy or a girl, what we would name you, what it would be like to have you meet your aunts and uncles and grandparents at Christmas. To add baby books to my amazon.com wishlist, to begin to imagine how we would decorate your nursery. To tell a few friends about you.

When suddenly I lost you, emotion turned the tide and won the war. Reason is a fair weather friend. I clung to it still. When the ultrasound technician quietly and calmly asked me if I had any questions, I did not ask, “Was there something I did wrong? Is this my fault?” I asked, “What is my next step?” How can I remove this pregnancy and move on? How do I handle this? What are the rules for the next month of my life?  After your father was contacted, I asked Holly to go to my house, check on the dog, and remove all signs you had been expected. The maternity clothes, the fetal Doppler, the single onesie I had allowed myself to buy for you.

If only there were rules for this. I could have held onto them as the waves of grief pummeled me by the minute. I could have clung to them as hormones drained abruptly and unceremoniously from my body. I could have trusted them as my faith wavered and my trust in God seemed misplaced. But grief has only stages, not rules, and they don’t even stay in a proper order. What a disappointment. What a betrayal. Even now, with the postpartum depression fading and my objectivity returning and my physical self technically ready to try again, reason is insufficient.

Probably it always was. I resented being governed by grief and loss and sorrow and anger and hormones and depression. Emotions are the result of chemicals in the brain and also the result of being human. Both reason and emotion are attributes of God’s nature. We, made in his image, have both as well. We have the capacity to feel deeply. We love and we lose. We have joy and despair. Artists and authors will argue that emotion is what makes us human more than anything else, for in it we have what animals do not. Furthermore, we do not speak of God as reason, though he is that. We speak of him as love, for he is that too, and we as humans value that this is his essence.

What a fool I am to worry if I have grieved rightly. If I have walked this road of grief in an admirable manner. If my report card for grief has an A+. Typically I do not worry if I have pleased others so much as my own expectations of myself, but in this I have worried if my anger at God has caused others to stumble. If my words in my letters to you have expressed falsehoods. But this is equally foolish, for grief has no right or wrong road.

Whatever I have said in the last six weeks, whatever I have felt, it is beautiful and horrible. It is human and it is a new realm of the spectrum of human emotion for me. It has dragged me, screaming, into the depths of what is evil about this world, into the darkness that God saw and entered into to rescue us from. It has moved me as it moved God into his rescue mission to the world. It has also led me, on my knees, into the beauty of what it means to love and lose a beloved one. It has freed me from my fear of and disdain for emotion. It has allowed me to see the purity in mourning from the soul itself, despite what logic would dictate. It has taught me grace.

I am far from past it. My loss of you is still my very present existence. I breathe in your heartbeats and exhale the lack of them. But here, six weeks later, I am at last in equal measure governed by emotion and reason and can choose from the two of them as I will. And rather than choosing to cling to reason as if it was my savior and the superior choice, I will choose to feel as much as I want how much I love and miss you. Perhaps for the first time in eight years, I give myself permission, without guilt, to feel.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen